Liron (pseudonym), a 34-year old orthodox woman, came in to interview for the assistant spokeswoman position with the Jewish National Fund (JNF). During the interview, JNF spokeswoman, Orit Hadad, informed her that the job demanded “atypical work hours” including both evenings and weekends.
The applicant then told Hadad that she was religious and could not work on Shabbat. Hadad “immediately told me that she was sorry, but she could not hire me. She asked the manpower company that sent me to send her someone who was able to help her out on Shabbat,” Liron told Ynet.
The Orthodox applicant said that she was “stunned” by this entire situation. “I can’t believe that this happened in a government institution that strives to represent the Jewish people,” she lamented.
On her end, the JNF spokeswoman claimed that this was a simple matter of convinience. “The JNF spokesperson’s office is extremely busy, especially on Saturdays because we often organize weekend nature trips. I have another assistant who works only during the week, and so I am especially in need of help on weekends,” she said. "I really don't see what the fuss is about."
Hadad also noted that she does not understand why they (the manpower company) sent her an applicant for the job that cannot work Saturdays. “I come from a religious background as well, this is not about discrimination,” she maintained. “Liron’s inability to work on Shabbat was only one factor in my decision.”
Against the law?
According to the “Work Hours and Rest Law”, however, there might be more to Hadad’s decision then a simple matter of personal preference.
This law requires employers to apply for a special permit to employ Jews on Shabbat, a permit which the JNF never applied for. As a matter of fact, such a permit was never issued for any spokesperson or assistant spokesperson in any Israeli government institution.
Liron’s story infuriated Industry, Trade and Labor Minister, and Shas Chairman, Eli Yishai.
“This is a harsh and shameful occurrence especially since the JNF is an institution that supposedly showcases the Jewish character of the State of Israel,” he said.
“I will not stand by and allow this to occur in government institution; both from a religious as well as a human rights perspective…..as soon as a formal complaint is lodged I will give it my undivided attention,” said Yishai.